Former educator Devany LeDrew writes about grief outreach.
I had lived almost three decades without death taking anyone close to me. I felt fortunate and a bit unusual to have all of my four of my biological grandparents still living by the time I was an adult. I am from a large family but I'd never lost a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or cousin.
I could count the number of funerals that I had attended on one hand. My presence at several of those had been more about my support for someone else than because I was personally grieving the loss of the deceased. Most of my experience with death had involved pets instead of people.
That's not to say that I wasn't intrigued by death and grief in the most naive way. I watched Six Feet Under, read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and read the blogs of those who were grieving. I was curious. Grief was a house that others resided in. I merely glanced in the windows as I passed by.
While pregnant with our second daughter in July of 2011, we learned that she wouldn't live long after birth. She had a chromosome abnormality which caused several defects in her developing body. She could have been still born at any time, but the doctors told us that we could hope for minutes, maybe hours before she died in our arms. We stopped decorating a nursery and made funeral arrangements instead.
Violet lived for two and a half days. I always include that half day because after preparing for a lifetime lived in minutes, twelve hours is pretty profound. She was a beautiful, brave little fighter. She is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, and a cousin. Every day she is missed.
Photo by Karen Reichley
I do not present myself to you as an expert on grief. I've taken a crash course on it. Violet's life was brief, but it began a new chapter in mine. It is a bittersweet one where grief colors everything I do, yet it doesn't define me. I don't want pity. I welcome the emotions that are a result of Violet's life. I wouldn't trade those two and a half days for all the pain I've endured through saying goodbye to her.
I realize now that grief isn't a house. It is a whole neighborhood but it is much more comfortable here than I thought it might be. I've made connections with fellow bereaved parents across the world. I've listened to, read about, and seen pictures of their precious babies gone too soon. I miss their beautiful children with them.
My writing here will go beyond baby loss to look death square in the eye. We will confront our cultural stereotypes, myths, and taboos regarding grieving and dying. We will examine rituals, expectations, and wrestle with our own mortality. This is not for the weak of heart, but it is inevitable. You will eventually grieve someone you love.
If you are reading because you are curious, I welcome you. Your questions and comments allow me to continue to talk about Violet as any parent wants to share their child with the world. If you join me as a bereaved parent, sibling, spouse, or otherwise, I embrace you. Please leave a comment sharing your experience in grieving. Together we will transcend our grief journey.